Decreased thickness of the bone cortex due to bone loss in the course of ageing and osteoporosis is associated with reduced bone strength. Cortical thickness measurement from ultrasound images was recently demonstrated in young adults. This requires the identification of both the outer (periosteum) and inner (endosteum) surfaces of the bone cortex. However, with bone loss, the cortical porosity and the size of the vascular pores increase resulting in enhanced ultrasound scattering which may prevent the detection of the endosteum. The aim of this work was to study the influence of cortical bone microstructure variables, such as porosity and pore size, on the contrast of the endosteum in ultrasound images. We wanted to estimate the range of these variables for which ultrasound imaging of the endosteum is feasible. We generated synthetic data using a two-dimensional time-domain code to simulate the propagation of elastodynamic waves. A synthetic aperture imaging sequence with an array transducer operating at a center frequency of 2.5 MHz was used. The numerical simulations were conducted for 105 cortical microstructures obtained from high resolution X-ray computed tomography images of ex vivo bone samples with a porosity ranging from 2% to 24 %. Images were reconstructed using a delay-and-sum (DAS) algorithm with optimized f-number, correction of refraction at the periosteum, and sample-specific wave-speed. We observed a range variation of 18 dB of endosteum contrast in our data set depending on the bone microstructure. We found that as porosity increases, speckle intensity inside the bone cortex increases whereas the intensity of the signal from the endosteum decreases. Also, a microstructure with large pores (diameter >250 μm) was associated with poor endosteum visibility, compared with a microstructure with equal porosity but a more narrow distribution of pore sizes. These findings suggest that ultrasound imaging of the bone cortex with a probe operating at a central frequency of 2.5 MHz using refraction-corrected DAS is capable of detecting the endosteum of a cortex with moderate porosity (less than about 10%) if the largest pores remain smaller than about 200 μm.
Bibliographical noteAccepted Author Manuscript
- Cortical bone
- Cortical bone ultrasound imaging
- Refraction corrected DAS
- Ultrasound imaging